This chart from a new EPI survey does a lot to explain the public’s sour political mood:
The thing of it is that the public’s belief that the federal government hasn’t been stepping in to help them out is simply mistaken. For example, every single employed person in the United States of America received a tax cut as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. But as I’ve noted previously the eager beavers in the White House got their hands on some behavioral economics research which indicated that the tax cut would be a more effective stimulus measure if it was implemented in a way deliberately designed to obscure the fact that it was happening from people. And mission accomplished!
Another major invisible way ARRA is helping ordinary people is through aid to state budgets. Virtually every state in the USA has cut spending and/or raised taxes to deal with budget holes. But they’ve done less of this than they otherwise would have. But if you like the idea of police on the streets and teachers in the classroom, then ARRA has stepped in to help you out. But, again, people probably don’t realize this.
But not all of this can be chalked up to program design. Just 36 percent of the public thinks the government has done much of anything for those who’ve lost their jobs. In fact, ARRA extended eligibility for unemployment insurance and heavily subsidized COBRA purchasing, both of which are boons to anyone who’s lost a job. But there’s been much less focus on this stuff in the media than on bank bailouts and mythical death panels, so apparently most people don’t realize it’s even happening.